Not a single word this woman ever spoke is recorded in the Bible, but the effects of her words and actions reverberate throughout the pages of Scripture and the years of history. The only time she is called by name is in the genealogies (Ex. 6:20; Num. 26:59), so you have to dig a little deeper to find out why she is worthy of mention. So who is this great woman? She is none other than the mother of Moses, who would one day lead the children of Israel out the bondage of Egypt. For the sake of those who are unfamiliar with her story, I’ll start from the beginning.
Although the Hebrews were slaves, God blessed them mightily, and because they were growing in number much faster than the Egyptians, Pharaoh feared that one day they would rise up against him and overthrow the kingdom. So he ordered the midwives to save the female babies, but to kill all the male infants as soon as they were born. But the midwives feared God and refused to obey Pharaoh’s command. (In honor for their obedience, God blessed them.) Pharaoh became all the more angry and made a general proclamation that all the Hebrew boy babies were to be thrown into the river at birth (Ex. 1:22).
Amram and his wife Jochebed already had two children, Miriam and Aaron, and Jochebed was expecting their third child. They did not have ultrasounds back then to know the gender of the baby before the time of delivery, but I’m sure she was watched, and people knew when it was time for her to give birth. The day came for the child to be born, and sure enough, it was a precious little boy. In fact, the Bible says he was a beautiful baby (Ex. 2:2). And not only is it mentioned here, but also in the New Testament in Acts 7:20 and in Hebrews 11:23. We often dote on newborn babies, but in all honesty, they are not really all that pretty. In fact, most of them are not pretty at all. They are red, wrinkled, sometimes bruised, and they look like they got up on the wrong side of the birth canal. But the truth of the matter is that there was something special about this baby right from the start. He was a truly, remarkably, beautiful baby. Why? Because his life depended on it. Amram and Jochebed saw something special in their son right from the start—apart from the fact that all lives matter. They both trusted God enough to protect the life of this precious little boy. For three months they hid him from the world, but you can only hide a baby for so long. After all, babies make noise—happy noises, and unhappy noises too.
The command was to throw all the boy babies into the river, but nothing was said to prohibit them from first putting him in a basket. So Jochebed got creative. She went to work to construct an ark of bulrushes (Ex. 2:3). If you don’t know what that is, picture a bassinet made of reeds, heavily coated inside and out with waterproofing, padded on the inside with a blanket, and topped with a lid to protect him from the sun, from splashes, and from the crocodiles. Then with a special prayer to the Father in heaven, he was sent to float in the river. And as an extra precaution, his older sister stood watch nearby.
Now here is where all that baby beauty came in to play. Pharaoh’s daughter was known to bathe in the river in this particular spot, and they wanted her to find Baby Moses. Do you think she would have given half a thought to homely child? Not likely. But when she saw the basket, then opened the lid and saw that precious, beautiful baby, she fell in love with him right away. And to clinch it, he started to cry, as if on cue, and she bonded with him on the spot. That was the Lord’s doing. She knew it was a Hebrew baby, and she knew her father’s command, but she took him and raised him as her own son.
But that’s not the best part. Miriam stepped out of the shadows just then and asked the princess if she could go find someone to nurse the baby for her. The princess said, “Yes, please.” So Miriam went and got her mother. I’ve always wondered if the princess ever suspected that Jochebed was the baby’s mother. Anyway, she hired Jochebed to nurse Moses until he was weaned, and back then they nursed until the age of three. So Jochebed got to keep her child for three whole years and teach him about God! Evidently she did a very good job teaching him too, for he never forgot the things that he learned in those formative years of his life.
Wow! What a reward for her great faith! And I’m not talking about the money, mind you, but the time spent with her son, and especially with the godly heritage that she instilled in him. For all that time, she did not have to labor with the other slaves, making bricks to build cities for Pharaoh, but she got to be a real, honest-to-goodness stay-at-home mom! And she devoted that time to her son, not to watching the soaps, surfing the Internet, catching up on the latest social media gossip, or even working out with her favorite exercise video. I’m sure she kept the house clean and had supper ready when the family got home, but her primary responsibility was to make sure her baby boy was well nourished and properly trained in the commands and promises of God. After all, one day he was going to be the leader of this nation. Did he know that? Did she know that? She knew he was a “proper” child. She knew he was special, that God had a plan for him, even if she did not know every detail of that plan.
Forty years went by as Moses grew up in the palace. One day he was walking out among the slaves, his fellow Israelites, and he saw one of them being mistreated. It greatly disturbed him, and he killed the Egyptian who was responsible and buried him in the sand. He thought no one had seen him do it, but he was wrong. The next day he saw two of his fellow Hebrews quarreling, and he stepped in to calm them down and was taken aback when one of them said, “Are you going to kill me, like you killed the Egyptian?” This scared him, and he ran away into the desert.
Jochebed was still alive when her son fled into exile. How it must have broken her heart to see him go, for now she had lost him for the third time. She gave him up the first time when she put him in the basket in the river, then again three years later when she yielded him to the full authority of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Now he was gone out of sight, and she had no idea if she would ever see him again. But I have no doubt that although her mother’s heart must have broken to see him go, her faith in God was not shaken in the least, for she knew that God was still in complete control.
As a mother, I too must trust God with my children. Will they grow up to be great leaders like Moses? I don’t know. But one thing I do know: God has a plan for their lives. My time of training them is pretty much done, and now it is time to let go. It’s harder than I thought it would be, but the God who gave them to me in the first place can certainly take care of them without my help. I trust Him.
Next week: Miriam
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